97 Things Every Programmer Should Know

(Chris Devlin) #1

(^102) 97 Things Every Programmer Should Know

Learn to Say,

“Hello, World”

Thomas Guest

PULA LEE, username leep, more commonly known as Hoppy, had a reputa-
tion as the local expert on programming issues. I needed help. I walked across
to Hoppy’s desk and asked whether he could take a look at some code for me.

“Sure,” said Hoppy, “pull up a chair.” I took care not to topple the empty cola
cans stacked in a pyramid behind him.

“What code?”

“In a function in a file,” I said.

“So, let’s take a look at this function.” Hoppy moved aside a copy of K&R and
slid his keyboard in front of me.

“Where’s the IDE?” Apparently, Hoppy had no IDE running, just some editor
that I couldn’t operate. He grabbed back the keyboard. A few keystrokes later, we
had the file open—it was quite a big file—and were looking at the function—it
was quite a big function. He paged down to the conditional block I wanted to
ask about.

“What would this clause actually do if x is negative?” I asked. “Surely it’s wrong.”

I’d been trying all morning to find a way to force x to be negative, but the big
function in the big file was part of a big project, and the cycle of recompil-
ing and then rerunning my experiments was wearing me down. Couldn’t an
expert like Hoppy just tell me the answer?

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